Wednesday 19 July 2023

Special REVIEW: Ultraman Regulos: First Mission

Ultraman Regulos: First Mission

Following on from his appearances in Ultra Galaxy Fight: The Destined Crossroad and the Ultraman Regulos miniseries, the story of the latest Ultra hero continues in Ultraman Regulos: First Mission! Releasing on both the Tsuburaya Productions YouTube channel and Ultraman Connection only a few weeks after his titular miniseries, this two-part special brings Regulos' story up into the current timeline - charting his trajectory following his release from the Absolutians' capture. As with many of the recent Ultraman projects, it has been released worldwide with an English dub as well as in its original Japanese with multi-language subtitles.

Sora investigatesMelos & Regulos

Following the attack on the Ultras by the Absolutians in Ultra Galaxy Fight: The Destined Crossroad, Ultraman Ribut has gone missing. With irregular signals emanating from the planet Maijii, Sora goes to investigate the signals along. What she discovers is a plot to resurrect another sworn enemy of the Ultras long thought gone.

Having recently joined the Galaxy Rescue Force to carry out his masters' wishes to use his fists for peace, Ultraman Regulos heads out on his first mission to rescue her. However it's going to take far more than just the inheritor of the Cosmo Beast Style to save the day, with backup quickly arriving to assist the newest Ultra hero.

Alien ZarabReiblood returns

Continuity has become an interesting point when discussing the Ultraman franchise these days, particularly in the case of the Ultra Galaxy Fight series. Whereas certain other big tokusatsu franchises largely stay away from connected continuity between series and reserve it for crossover specials, Ultraman has kept it close to its chest for some time. Though the main instalments do still work as standalone products, cameos, legacy forms and various other references have always added an extra layer for pre-existing fans. While the Ultra Galaxy Fight are more along the lines of the aforementioned crossover specials, they truly are a smelting pot of continuity - bringing together plot threads and characters from across Ultraman's illustrious history. With current series Ultraman Blazar seemingly taking a step away from continuity elements, it's now left to the web specials to carry this on. With the initial Ultraman Regulos miniseries extremely light on continuity, it isn't much of a surprise to see First Mission picking up the slack and dropping viewers right back in at the deep end.

For something so short Ultraman Regulos: First Mission sure pulls from a lot of different threads. Not only is it a sequel to The Destined Crossroad and Ultraman Regulos, but it's also a follow-on from Ribut's appearance in Ultraman Trigger. The Galaxy Rescue Force members were properly introduced in their own voice drama series released alongside Trigger, while the special itself deals with the return of Alien Reiblood - a character that hasn't been properly seen since Ultra Galaxy Fight Mega Monster Battle. His spirit however has lingered since, most notably fusing with Belial - his release here in turn tying in with the end of Ultraman Geed. And all of this is BEFORE getting into the Ultras that appear in this special - most of which have previously appeared in Ultra Galaxy Fight but have more obscure roots elsewhere. Granted very little of this information is required to enjoy First Mission as anything crucial is quickly explained, but it does feel as though it's all intended to be taken as common knowledge by this point. 

Ultraman RegulosUltraman Ribut

It's important to point out there's nothing wrong with these web specials being loaded to the brim with continuity - it's wonderful to see the franchise embrace it so much and honestly, doing it all in projects like these is far more preferable to doing it in the main shows. But in the grand scheme of what this storyline is presumably trying to achieve, it's all beginning to feel a bit bogged down by it. The Ultras' battle with the Absolutians has now been (slowly) going on for three years now (starting back with The Absolute Conspiracy back in 2021) and it feels like more and more continuity is being piled on with no real payoff to show for it. We've already had Parallel Isotope versions of Belial and Tregear brought back, and now there's a version of Alien Reiblood to go with it. Meanwhile the Absolutians themselves are still severely underdeveloped, despite appearing in numerous specials by this point. Regulos meanwhile has no memories of where he came from, and this special doesn't add to that element of his story in any way whatsoever. Maybe Tsuburaya have a big plan for this storyline that's been a good few years in the making, or maybe it's a case of expecting too much from something that's essentially just an large-scale extension of the old Ultra Fight series - specials that weren't necessarily known for their emphasis on story.

But as an excuse to see some lesser known faces, these specials really can't be beaten. Despite centring around Regulos and Ribut its really the US (and Australian) Ultras that steal the show, with Ultraman Great (Ultraman: Towards the Future) , Ultraman Powered (Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero), Ultraman Scott, Ultraman Chuck and Ultrawoman Beth (Ultraman: The Adventure Begins) all showing up to lend Regulos a hand. Though they've all already previously appeared in Ultra Galaxy Fight, it's great to see these obscure Ultras getting more exposure - especially with Tsuburaya having gone to the trouble of making suits for them all. Throw in the fact that Ribut is also an Ultra that began life outside of Japan, and First Mission is quite the advertisement for the impact Ultraman has had across the globe.

The Ultra BrothersUltraman Powered

Of course it isn't just the heroes getting name checked here either. As welcome as an Alien Zarab appearance is that's likely due to him being a hot character right now (having been in both Shin Ultraman and the latest season of the ULTRAMAN anime), but there are some other interesting choices thrown in as well. Alien Reiblood (and the Reibatos body he inhabits) aside there's also a surprise appearance from Ultraman Shadow - the anti-Ultraman robot that appeared in the second Ultraman Zearth film. Kaiju also include favourites like Black King and Star Bem Gyeron - the latter prompting a nice little Ultraseven reference from the Adventure Begins team. Again it's nothing particularly in depth, but it's just nice to see a lot of these monsters again.

If you're used to the fight sequences offered up by the Ultra Galaxy Fight web-series (and let's face it, it's unlikely you're watching this if you aren't) then you'll know exactly what to expect - some great Kaiju-grappling action against green-screen backdrops. Though they lack the finesse of the miniature cities seen in the main shows these scenarios do a great job of maintaining the cosmic aspect of the franchise - something which is key to the web shows in particular. Early on in the special it's nice to get a bit of direct focus on Regulos' martial arts-based fight style, but admittedly as more Ultras turn up it does drop into something a little more typical for the franchise. Even when Regulos is still centre stage it feels as though there's more focus on more beam-orientated moves, which is a bit disappointing given there's something far more unique to focus on. 

ReibatosUltraman Shadow

Overall Ultraman Regulos: First Mission is just one big Ultra Fight featuring a bunch of obscure Ultras, and while there's nothing especially wrong with that there comes a point where these web miniseries/specials just leave you wanting more. The nostalgia factor may be running at an all-time high for fans of Ultraman's previous worldwide exports, but there's a sense of this being another example of the years-long Ultra Galaxy Fight storyline piling more continuity on without any sign of real payoff in sight. That said, if you're here purely for the action then First Mission is unlikely to disappoint, and if this is another step toward Regulos becoming a staple web-series Ultraman the same way Ribut has then that will be a worthwhile achievement in itself. 


Kamen said...

Are you going to do a review of Yodonna 3?

Alex said...

Didn't realise it was out! Thanks for the heads up!